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Sometimes Melbourne – What Melbourne Loved 2019

Carla here. I did Sometimes Melbourne’s annual “What Melbourne Loved” list. You can see the rest by clicking the link.

Favourite moments in 2019.

2019 has been a year of incredible art for me. Music, film and my beloved theatre. There have been so many amazing performances that my memories become nested into moments that had my jaw unhinge with tears of disbelief that life could be so beautiful. A lot of the works that stayed with me explored post-humanism, native peoples self-determination or the post apocalypse; further cementing that theatre is dangerous, vital, conversational and provocative. No wonder funding is drying up, like the creek beds of our planet.

Sarah Ward’s alien/rock/monkey space rock opera The Legend of Queen Kong: opera singing MOTHER FUCKER to a baroque harpsichord psychedelic freak out.

Ursula Yovich’s defiant, heartbreaking and vulnerable rock musical Barbara and the Camp Dogs: too many moments to list that had me in tears.

Mr Burns, a post-electric play (Lightning Jar Theatre Inc.) was an absolute miracle of production, the amount of moving pieces to get right would have been back breaking. Its message of the way humans make meaning and connect, how memory works, and our utter compulsion to tell ourselves and each other through story completely blew me away. The pop medley was the prestige in an already inconceivably incredible independent theatre production.

Emma Hall’s World Problems. A simple conceit – a woman builds a trampoline on stage, with a monologue projected at/to the audience. Emma tells us the story of how ‘you’ let the world die. The mental gymnastics I went through to avoid complicity took me to at least half way through the show before my heart sank and I started to cry realising that it *was* us. We did let the world die.

The Honouring (during Yirramboi Festival) was a work of such tenderness and pain; I am crying now thinking about it. Jack Sheppard’s physical rendering of Indigenous suicide through text, movement and puppetry was staggering. A work that didn’t get enough attention. Nor the festival really; Yirramboi is extraordinary.

Joel Bray’s Daddy (also at Yirramboi) a was another incredible work featuring dance, text and tableaus presented to the audience by following Bray around the room. Joel Bray is filled with rage and hope and love and desire and this was beautifully rendered. It was electrifying.

The Susie Dee and Patricia Cornelius (Dee and Cornelius) power combo continued to slay with Love: stories, faces and bodies I never see on Melbourne stages. Working class people. Drug dependent people. The traumatised. The vulgar. The aberrant. All lovingly and respectfully brought into focus. I walk away from their shows thinking why do I never see these kinds of stories? Who has the keys?

Them (La Mama – Samah Sabawi) was one of the most profound plays of the year. Mystical in its realisation the perfection of casting, time, place and script. It is truly gifted to make a drama about war deeply funny in places. It had me laughing and sobbing and believing the best in humanity that plays like this can find a stage.

I flew to Sydney to see Adena Jacobs’s Titus Andronicus and it did not disappoint Jane Montgomery Griffiths was clearly having the time of her life in this role. My moment of the year was Catherine Văn-Davies ‘comic relief’ clown smearing shit all up the back of her legs whilst doing a sexy dance. Just when you think things can’t get worse, that happens to you and you wonder how life can get any better?

My last three are the most creative and original of the year. Yay for Canetoads! at Melbourne Fringe was one of those word-of-mouths gems that I would never have known about. So skillfully wrought with colonialism succinctly expressed through the “white death” of the sugar cane industry. Ordinarily this pun could have been one note or on the nose, but Kendra Keller’s tremendous skill and commitment makes our complicity and embeddedness in this horror felt.

Subliminal Massage (Marcus mckenzie: Acter for Hire) at Melbourne Fringe was truly one of the most left field and surreal works I’ve ever experienced. A post (post?) human exploration/celebration/exhibition of the trash bag of western “culture”. Puns, portmanteaus, wellness, white cubes, black screens… This AI hasn’t been updated in a century and his database has festered. Glitched out, hilarious, touching, terrifying… just absolutely fucking mind blowing.

And finally Unwoman by @therabbletheatre. From the fecund idealisation of the function of femininity to Yumi Umiumare’s butoh – 50 minutes of screaming and giving birth to rocks in a concrete prison reality. This work truly communicated the female experience. Funny, paternalistic, objectifying, non-agentic, tedious, primal – you name it it was in there. The design was also exceptional.

A deep gratitude to all these artists (and the 60+ other performances I saw this year). The diversity of skill and talent in this country is staggering, and your work, minds, hearts and bodies make my life worth living.